The Offshore Voyaging Reference Site

The Future of AAC

AAC’s 20th anniversary is coming up in early 2023. Who would have imagined that a site we started for friends and family back in 2003 would evolve into what it is today.

And the cool thing is that, despite all that time, writing over a thousand articles and/or Online Book chapters, and answering most of 25,000 comments, I’m still as excited about creating content as I ever was—if I stopped having new ideas for articles today (not likely), it would be over a year before I ran dry.

Making AAC Better

Big anniversaries seem to promote analysis, and so Phyllis and I are thinking about new projects to improve AAC for the next 20 years…well, maybe not, I’m 70…let’s say five years.

Some of our ideas are to:

  • Offer an AAC app with the same content and features, but optimized for phones and tablets.
  • Do a complete rewrite and edit of the Online Books:
    • Consolidate multi-part chapters into single chapters.
    • Update in light of newer technology and methods.
    • General improvements—I have never written a thing that I, and/or editor-Phyllis, couldn’t make better, particularly after some time has elapsed.
  • Make the Online Books available on iBooks and Google Play as downloadable eBooks.
    • We already do this with our Norwegian Cruising Guide so have it figured out.
  • Add a micro-blog area for short posts about cool gear, boats and techniques that I come across, but that don’t warrant a full article.
  • Further improve the design, speed, and usability of the site.

Refocus on What Matters

But, much more importantly, we want to focus even more on in-depth actionable content that will be of use to you members for years to come.


  • Chapters to fill gaps in the Online Books.
  • Diagrams and illustrations.
  • Checklists linked to in-depth explanatory chapters.

It’s Happening

We are already doing a lot of this:

  • We have finished the rigging checklist and associated articles.
  • I’m working on an electrical systems checklist, and most of the associated articles are already written.
  • I have spent weeks interviewing experts and industry insiders, as well as reading manuals, on lithium batteries so I can update our Electrical Systems Online Book with that technology.
  • It’s a rare day that passes without us making an improvement to an existing article. Might just be a few words changed, but often it’s a rewrite.
  • We are in the throes of installing a bunch of interesting gear to review on the AAC Test Boat, AKA our J/109.
  • We are winding up a frenzied refit of said boat—my fourth refit…must be nuts—during which we have learned a huge amount that we will share.

Some Things Don’t Change

All that said about current projects and future plans, there is one thing that has been the core of the site from day one that will never change:

Our focus on seamanship and voyaging offshore.

We are not, and will never become, a site full of breathless fan-boy articles about new technology just to get clicks and members.

Challenges to Solve

So that’s where we are now, and what we plan for the future. But we have two challenges to solve before we can move forward:

  • Time
  • Revenue

Actually, the two are interrelated, read on for how.

The Situation

  • AAC is a full-time job for me in the winter, and near that in the summer; and a part-time job for Phyllis year round.
  • I’m already doing all I can, so my time is a zero sum game: any new task I take on must be balanced by an existing task I drop.
  • Our member growth stalled at the beginning of the pandemic.
  • Growth picked up again a bit after Christmas but has tanked in recent weeks—AAC membership has always been closely correlated with stock market returns, as you would expect.
  • I’m not a big enough fool to try and forecast economic trends, but it does seem likely that we are entering a period of subdued growth, so growing membership is going to be difficult.
  • Member growth, or even just adding enough new members to balance attrition, is directly correlated to how often we publish.

To summarize, I’m feeling like a gerbil on a wheel:

  • We need to produce an article at least five times a month just to stay in one place.
  • General administration and maintenance of the site takes up at least as much time as content creation, because we have to do it all ourselves to keep costs contained.
  • We have less time and energy left over for the cool projects listed above than we would like.
  • There are often times I would like to spend a couple of weeks researching, writing, and illustrating a new in-depth article, but with the current model that’s out.

Another Problem

But wait, it gets worse (you were waiting for it).

We have an expenses problem, too:

  • The cost of the software and services we use to publish this site has skyrocketed over the last three years at a rate far higher than inflation.
  • Ever more rigorous privacy, tax reporting, and security requirements have forced us to pay ever more for the software and services to comply.

Price Increase?

So why not just put up the prices to cover these costs?

We just did, at the beginning of the May. Annual membership went from $24 to $36 a year.

Yup, that’s a 50% jump, but also the first in over three years, and only US$1/month.

And anyway, we were, and have been since 2013, when we started membership, relying on growth to make up for a silly-low price. That’s a bad strategy, particularly in the uncertain times we live in where reliable recurring revenue is required for AAC to survive.

And, anyway, even this increase won’t make our friend Andy Schell stop yelling at us that we don’t charge enough, as he has for years.

Not a Fix

But that’s not a fix because most of you members are on our legacy annually recurring plan at your original sign-up price of $18 (2013), $19.99 (2015), or $24 (2018), depending on when you signed up.

I guess we could unilaterally raise the price you pay on your next renewal—as most of the software and service vendors we use have done to us—but that does not feel right, since we would be welching on our long-promised policy not to.

And, anyway, it’s way better for AAC if you to stay at the older rate than leave because of an increase you didn’t get a say in.

Not a Good Situation

Add all this up and we are not just working harder for the same money, we are working harder for way less money after expenses, and that’s getting worse every month.

That does not feel good, particularly since our income from AAC has never been princely.

The Strategy

Phyllis and I have talked this over a bunch and the solution we came up with to this existential problem for AAC is:

  1. Stop fixating on the number of new members, or even the total number of members after attrition.
  2. Focus on making the content that really matters to loyal members as good as it can be, even if that means publishing less often.
  3. Ask those members who can to voluntarily pay more.

A Four-Part Plan

To those ends we are planning four steps:

1. Price Increase

  1. Put the price up substantially, even though we know this will reduce new signups. Done.
  2. Increase the price annually, so we don’t have to resort to a big percentage jump again.

2. Reward Automatic Renewal

Continue our policy of existing annual members automatically renewing at the price they signed up for:

  • Rewards loyal members.
  • Helps members who have, through no fault of their own, not come through the pandemic well.
  • Makes it more attractive for annual members to automatically renew so as not to lose their legacy rate.

3. Encourage Upgrading to The Current Price

Ask members who it works for to voluntarily change to the new price of US$36 / year to fund the improvements listed above.

4. Supporting Membership

Offer a new AAC Supporter Membership at US$120/year for those members who would like to support us at a higher level.

  • Includes an annual AAC Supporter group meeting with Phyllis and me, and possibly other benefits as we think of them.

Still a trivial amount for a member with, as many of us do, six-figure money in a boat.


So what do you think? Please leave a comment.

Or, better yet, leave a comment and increase your support:

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Thom Unger

I just upgraded from my legacy of $20/year to $36/year. I recommend your site every chance I get and suggest others do the same! Many thanks to both you and your wife for all that you do here.

James Greenwald

I tend to be a rather outspoken commenter on the many YouTube sailing channels. The mistakes I see even from the most experienced Tubers is shocking out there and I have recommended your site and articles on many occasions.
Not sure what the rules are, is there anyway to harvest more subscriptions thru this medium? Not suggesting you doing videos; ouch! that is a huge amount of work/expense with questionable returns.

Dick Stevenson

Hi John and Phyllis,
I am sorry you have found it necessary to struggle in this way. Struggle to do the research for your articles, to do the video on docking, etc., OK: but not to struggle to keep alive and vibrant such a valuable contribution to the cruising community.
I do not have a solution, or even much of a suggestion, but I will up my financial support.
I have been curious over the years, in casual observation, in noticing that your site (and others that are in the realm of cruising community support such as RC’s Marine HowTo) seems to get no notice in the rest of the cruising media realm. Especially such an interesting project as the A40. Now, I could understand some of the slicks feeling competitive, but why not Practical Sailor, or professional Boatbuilder who do articles on design evolution (and your A40 is unique and “news”worthy).
I wonder also whether the European cruising community could not be expanded and/or New Zealand and Australia. It has been great fun (for me) to decipher the occasional mis-spelling and differing word usage that comes up, but more importantly, many have made important contributions.
Random thoughts,
Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy 

Ben Logsdon

I subscribe to both PS and AAC–they really fit two different aspects. To me, both are valuable resources that I am willing to pay to get TRUSTED INFORMATION. The free stuff out there is often questionable, biased, and is there to peddle a particular product. I just bumped my subscription at AAC to ensure this objective resource stays!

Iain Dell

I’m minded of your frequent comment that ‘perfect is the enemy of good’; the philosophy is equally applicable here. What you offer are honest appraisals and recommendations based on extensive real world experience with substantial value added by contributors in the comments – and that’s a major USP. Contrast that with mainstream magazines where the writers seem to bend over backwards not to cause offence to companies. Perhaps before you change anything it might be good to write down exactly what it is that you do well and want to sustain and then put it in large letters over your desk.

This site offers me far more than any magazine ever could at a far lower price. I’d keep any change simple and just increase your charges in line with your costs; I suspect most of us wouldn’t be fussed. I wouldn’t agonise over legacy rates as everyone who lives in the real world recognises the inevitability of price rises. I really wish Utility companies would give us loyalty rates – but that ain’t ever going to happen!

Nigel Scott

“I’m minded of your frequent comment that ‘perfect is the enemy of good’;” is entirely correct, try to avoid the temptation to polish/rewrite unless something manifestly changes (or, perish the thought, is wrong).

Iain Dell

Sorry John – but you’re complicating it….. Bless you for your motives, but if this was a system on a boat you’d be stressing all the reasons why you should be keeping it simple. People lose out for lots of reasons other than one virus and you can’t mitigate them all, I’m afraid. Give yourself a break!

John Michaels

1000% agree with the statement

John Cobb

I’m surprised that your subscriber numbers didn’t go up along with the apparently big increase in new boat owners that occurred during the pandemic?

Rob Westermann

Happy to pay for a Supporter membership!

Emile Cantin

The current website is completely fine as-is on mobile, and building an app is a ton of work that doesn’t give much added value, IMO. I’d prefer you spend your time & energy on the content, that’s what we come here for!

Mark Wilson


Nigel Scott

…and again

John Deakin

Totally agree, l use an old IPhone 6s Plus and always read your articles on that,
no problem

Mark Devlin

I concur with the others, I have always read the articles on a phone or tablet without issue.

Jane Anderson

Same — I routinely read on my iPad without issue. Even if you had an app, I’d continue to view the site via the web browser on my iPad.

Matt Marsh

Agreed. As is, AAC works perfectly on mobile Chrome, mobile Firefox, and iOS Safari on all screen sizes I’ve tried. An app would just be a distraction that adds no value, at least unless it had an elaborate system of local caching and cache updating for offline access, which is not something I would want to code!

John Cobb

Think I would prefer an eBook because you can annotate or make notes in it using just about any e reader as far as I know.

On a different note, what about podcasts? Surely it wouldn’t take as much time to edit as video. There’s a dearth of good sailing podcasts out there, IMO, especially technical ones.

Christopher Barnes

John – Given your subscriber base and our aspirations… downloadable ebooks that we can reference sans internet when off in the hinterlands for both reference and, for me anyway, pleasure reading – is very appealing. I get that protecting content is an issue and might interfere.

Matt Marsh

For eReader access, rather than manually converting, updating, and syncing EPUB files, I might suggest simply making sure the site plays well with Pocket as a first step. If there’s a relatively easy way to make that work, it might solve the issue for 80% of users at 10% of the effort.

P D Squire


Marc Dacey

With all due respect to your formidable research and analytical skills in terms of all things sailing, the comments these pieces inspire are the true strength of this project. The sailors here are clearly experienced, and it is what they bring that illuminates some often dim corners of our shared pursuits.

Neil McCubbin

Agreed that written material with pictures and perhaps the odd short video are much better than podcasts and long videos for the kind of technical content of AAC

John Michaels

Did anyone ever told you that if you don’t have an app, they will not subscribe?
I think that AAC appeals to the serious minded boat knowledge gathering individuals. A change/add in format may not be of any value. What is of value to me is strengthening your already strong core values. The rest will follow.

Alex Borodin

Hi John,
I may be biased (I’m a software developer), but I very much don’t like apps that have none or next to none value added compared to the company’s website. I have a browser on my phone. I don’t need an app that is basically a browser for a single site.
Oh, and thanks for providing the option to pay more to support AAC.

Nathan Moore

I will toss my $0.02 in agreement – don’t waste time/effort on an app. I like the idea of an e-book with diagrams that can be saved on a computer/tablet/e-reader and referenced offline.

I will upgrade at my next renewal. Please keep producing your content!

Steven Hodder

Yep, no app. Our devices are already bloated with apps we dont need/use/can’t delete.

P D Squire


George L

second that.

every s..t outfit expects you to install some stupid app on your device for something where a website would be perfectly fine.

Will Kirkness

I also agree. I’m currently reading on an iPad and it’s flawless. Also, your email notifications link to the browser platform so that’s how I access AAC. As for Andy’s advice, his app is fine but I don’t love it. Makes sense for him as he started from scratch, but you have this site already… it ain’t broke so…

Chris M

I agree with others: an app version would add no value for me… and anything that subtracts from your content-making time would seem to be a step backwards.


Marc Dacey

This site could look like Netscape 1.0 and I would read it. I appreciate the curation and links to related articles and ancient, but valuable, observations than I do on the look and feel. It remains the only site I pay for, or, indeed, have ever paid for, and is one of the few I read from the boat on a Nova Scotia mooring ball.

Neil McCubbin

I do not see any great advantage in an app. I read on iPhone iPad ant PC, all quiet happily
Content is the key to value in AAC, not computer pizzazz

P D Squire

I’m reading this on my phone now and I don’t even have my reading glasses with me.

Kurt Mammen

Hey John,

I’m a relatively new member (2 months) and have exhausted the “old” material. I have thought about moving on but have decided to wait and see what new material comes from your new boat and how you manage the transition from “high latitude sailor” to what, I’m assuming, is more “coastal cruiser”. I would prefer new material over an app and, as others have said, the site works well enough on a phone or tablet as is. You’ve created something special here and I hope you continue to find it an enjoyable endeavor. My one suggestion might be to consider expandig the number of contributors – vetted/edited by you of course – so that you are not the only source of new material. I have certainly enjoyed the articles of the other people you have included thus far.

I wish you well on your continuing journey and thank you for helping me on mine!


Richard Phillips

I would love to see a really good app

BUT I don’t think you should go down this road; as Emile says it is a ton of work, far more technically demanding (and thus expensive) than developing a website.

Better to spend a fraction of that just making sure any changes to the website work properly on mobile devices.

You mention that there is an existing app that might link to your system: I suggest that is worth investigating, just don’t try commissioning a bespoke app from scratch.

Philippe Candelier

Same opinion here. Content first. Container second… Remember the 3D thing on the TV ? Dead…because of the absence of content and then because of the complexity…

David Smith


William Koppe

What on earth are you thinking.
Like many others I would like to increase your income but I cannot because you exclude 3 year subscriptions.
We hear you and agree with Andy that you are grossly undercharging. Why exclude any members. $36 is still too low.
A jump from $36 to $120 is too high and more members at say $60 would generate more income. You do not need to change benefits, just keep on writing about new stuff and better ways of dealing with old stuff.
In my case spending 24 years on researching the best items to create the perfect yacht, your insights have been a very valuable resource and I have mentioned your site frequently on Instagram.
I would suggest a member survey of your proposed improvements. as not all would get widespread support in my opinion and it would save a lot of hard work. Perhaps also survey a variety of fee structures.
Whether you decide on $60 or $120 I would sign up for either if possible.

Christopher Barnes

+1… just have to pile on here to point out that for folks actually dealing with boats and sailing adventurous places… every tenth or so article saves me/us hundreds of dollars and many hours in getting it right the first time.

Long ago I sent you an email from South Georgia in howling williwaws to thank you because the anchor and rode held (bc of what I learned from AAC)… on that day my subscription was worth both a good night’s sleep & the entire value of our boat.. all to say you can charge more.

Although I do agree that you should use data to maximize total revenue by balancing subscriber numbers with the subscription cost, over the rants of the likes of me.

Marc Dacey

While the reason we have yet to leave Nova Scotia after arriving here in October 2020 is related to supply chain issues, political turmoil and other challenges, the reason we landed on the South Shores is directly due to one of John’s recommendations as to a competent ship yard capable of doing a reasonably priced bottom job. We have made several shore side decisions, such as buying land, a mooring, and a trailer as a “Plan Z” stemming from this and while we have to be prudent about the increasingly expensive yard, we feel lucky to have gotten the AAC tip in the first place. My point is that the advice given here can have knock-on effects well beyond just talking about boats.

Christopher Barnes

Be my pleasure to craft a helpful testimonial, just let me know. In our case, AAC was a partner in our journey from near-shore cruising to and through three years of adventuring in the higher latitudes. You and Phyllis are “enablers” in the very best sense of the word!

Jim Egnew

We will be upgrading our membership Your site is a wealth of information and we appreciate the straightforward and (occasional) brutal honesty.

Jim Egnew

Not too brutal, and definitely not too far. And no app, please. I like what you’ve done.

Charlie Armor

Upgraded my membership. Random thoughts:

Future growth will be ever more closely linked to the number and quality of video posts.

For me one of the most impressive feature of the site is the quality of your moderation. When I come across quality articles elsewhere the associated comments are rarely worth reading. This is never the case on AAC.

Colin and Andy’s articles are always good, do you invite other people to submit articles for you to edit and approve?

Leaving your sailing expertise aside for a minute you have a real talent for fostering a healthy community that’s comfortable with a range of opinions. It’s the moderation that makes the difference, the secret sauce that makes AAC special.

Richard Ritchie

I strongly endorse this. Moderation and resulting quality is hugely valuable.
I am also concerned at the suggestion that only new articles drive new numbers. The discussion is just as important. If really good discussions are provoked, then fewer articles a month would be fine…
And there is such a huge resource: without some stirrng of the pot, new members will seldom see the older material! So I amsure there is an alternate value proposition.
Why not brainstorm how you stir that pot to provoke thinking? For me that is one of your key value propositions
PLEASE dont burn yourselves out. You shuld gracefully withdraw.
(And I will be upgrading my membership…)

Nathan Moore

Short demo videos to help an article could be a great addition on some subjects, but not all. I think longer videos are not the answer. I’ll also tag along on the appreciation for the comment quality, it’s a real asset.

Ben Logsdon

Seccond more suplimental videos! Sometimes seeing it in video format helps paint a picture better than stills. Especially since the caption is your own commentary. You don’t need to put too much work into it. James Baldwin of Atom Voyages keeps it fairly raw, but the information is deep.

P D Squire

Sounds like your videos will be pithy and densely packed with valuable info. 10 x the content in 1/10th the time of the usual sailing video. Viewers will be impressed. Be sure to include a link to the website. This could contribute a lot to subscription growth.

Charlie Armor

I should have expanded my comment about video. I completely agree that it’s usually not the best way to impart technical info. However, it does currently make a significant difference to where you are placed in Google rankings. If a technical (text) article has a short video at the top introducing the topic and saying why it’s important I think you’ll find it performs far better in the Google search rankings. I’m assuming that Google search is where most of the membership growth comes from?

Matt Marsh

Video is not a great format for most of what’s discussed at AAC.

S/V Delos and the like are about selling a dream of escape to people who are stuck behind cash registers, truck dashboards, and keyboards. AAC is partly about selling the dream, but it’s also about teaching the hard lessons and the complex technical details. That’s best done through writing and through asynchronous textual discussion.

Doing a good job of regular video is hard. You are trying, by yourself, to be a television writer, director, cameraman, gaffer, actor, producer, propmaster, editor, publisher, marketer, and accountant, in addition to all the hats you have to wear as master of the boat. You are doing all this while beholden to a dominant distribution platform (YouTube) that is faceless, capricious, and known to arbitrarily suspend creators’ income streams without explanation or right of appeal.

Unless you really enjoy the attention, the workload, and the risk, being a video star is really not that appealing a life!

Ernest E Vogelsinger

Hi John, actually I wondered how long it may take until you recognize your sites’ value is way above 18/year… 😉
AAC is actually the only site that I simply cannot live/sail/refit without, so I already changed my plan to the current value. Sorry that I’m not able to support more, at the moment my boat is eating up all money 😄

Gary Warner

Some other good boating web sites have offered lifetime memberships in the range of $200-$400. For those who truly value your work, this could be a viable option to provide pay-it-forward financial support.

James Greenwald

AAC Supporter done! without even a second thought

John Armitage

Upgrading to Supporter at $120 with thanks.

Arne Mogstad

Hi, so many good comments already. I wholeheartedly agree with Andy (and everyone else) that an increase in price is warranted! And the support membership is a good idea! Personally I find this site (at least) as valuable as a course I could have paid for. One thing is the content, the other is the format. That I can go and consult the material at any time and pace I need later as opposed to a course that is over at the end. There is even “personal support” in the comments, and full articles being written based on reader-questions!

I am totally new to sailing, so I have little to compare to, but I “delivered” my own boat from UK, across the North Sea, to Northern Norway pretty much singlehanded, having literally never stepped foot aboard a sailboat before in my life. I credit that to your site (going alongside, anchoring, heavy weather tactics… just to name a few) and Colin (who helped me out during survey/purchase). And the expenses saved in buying gear and doing what works right away, is beyond my imagination. For sure this applies to more people than me! Paying a tenner a month is still an amazing value to me.

As to the future:
I don’t really care about an app, but as mentioned, an e-book would be nice. A way to download and save entire books to have available offline and put bookmarks and personal comments in the text etc. Having this able to update with new comments and changes happening on the website would be even better, but just the books/articles without the comments at all would be really nice too.

As to “polishing” articles, I’m not sure that is the best way to spend the time/energy (unless you find yourself in a position to hire someone). However, as many have mentioned, the comments are a large part of this site, but as a new member with SOOOO many articles and comments to read through, finding information can be hard. Therefore I think maybe a way to highlight/implement/polish/categorize the important comments in older articles could be great. No idea how to do it, just something that I see as a value to new readers like myself.

Expanding on that, I feel like the search function is not the greatest. It would be great to see this upgraded. In fact, that is probably the thing I would appreciate the most, as it can sometimes be hard to find the right article in the “jungle” of articles and comments. What I miss, is things like being able to modify the searches (based on headings, comments, author, date, etc), and also to change the layout a bit so that you can more easily identify the results without opening the link (increased number of lines in the preview for example). And also adding a link to the home page from the search-page in the logo on top.

The way I “consume”/study AAC does not fit well with the video format, and I suspect that applies to most of us. This is technical and often “heavy” material that needs to be absorbed at one’s own pace, and text/pictures are perfect!

Lastly: As everyone says, what you do is GREAT, the format works, the content works. Don’t change too much (just increase the price)! Write quality articles and answers in the comments. There are many people that wonder the same thing that is being asked in the comments, and as such, I feel that the replies in comments are just as valuable as new comments.

Arne 🙂

Eric Charron-Peters

I’m a new sailor, only joined a few years ago after hearing about your page through Andy. And i’ll happily bump up the membership fee to the 36$ mark as, even as a young person, it is a very low amount. More or less the same as the price of one book per year. And lord knows i buy enough sailing books as is. Best of luck to you and looking forward to read what’s next!

Garry MacKenzie

A price increase is justified. I changed my Legacy rate from $18 to $36. Thank you for your tremendous service and I hope you get ongoing support from your other followers.
However, a bigger issue is that you seem tired. You deserve a break. Why not cut the service to a quarterly offering for the same price? It’ll give you a chance to live a little. You are now 70. No apologies are needed. Stay well and keep sharing the knowledge for as long as you can. The market is changing. I’m 77. My offshore days are over. Climate change, global political unrest, and inflation make the dream of offshore adventure sailing seem less attainable for the younger ones. We enjoyed the best of times.

Frank Mulholland

Yes. Agree with virtually everything above. I know you don’t like adverts but perhaps a 2 tier membership with a higher cost for being ad. free?
Happy to upgrade our 3 year plan to higher rate
We also read everything perfectly on both iPhones and iPads, so probably no need to spend money on this.
Just about to launch in North Sydney NS.
Thanks again for an invaluable resource.

Daniel McCarty

I agree that videos are not that good at sharing technical information. It can be done but it takes more time to do than writing. I really hate seeing a video on how to do something simple regarding steps, A, B, and C, when I could quickly read simple bulleted text. The video, even if done well, will take far more time to watch, than to read text. It is a hard and time consuming task to create good video content and many times just quicker to write up some text.

Video, and even simple images, takes quite a bit of time editing that I do not think most people appreciate. We have watched Delo’s since the beginning, and you can see how their photography, videography, story telling, and editing skills have improved greatly over the years. This does not come cheap in time, skill set, cameras, computers and software.

It might be helpful to do some polls, if it is easy to do, regarding

  • Subscription rates
  • Type of content, iBooks, videos, etc.
  • The demand for table and smart phone support.

I am interested in iBooks to download which could also be a source of income when ya’ll get older. 🙂

If I could only have one cruising/boating related website, it would be Morgan’s Cloud. I reference Morgan’s Cloud articles frequently on other websites and mention that the site is cheap and a bargain for the price. I often think that I should get a referral fee. LOL I did update my subscription. I did not realize the subscription was even cheaper than I thought.

Philip Wilkie

This is the ONLY marine oriented site I am willing to pay for and I am happy to renew at $U60 per year. The Unique Value Proposition AAC offers is integrity, authenticity and credibility – over and above all other sources I know of.

That said this does not solve the problem of attracting new members. I understand your reluctance to add more video based material – but our generation will be the last for whom books and written material are a primary information resource. The advent of unlimited streaming video will prove as significant as the invention of the printing press and will change everything.

But that does not automatically make everything on YouTube wonderful either. And it is a brutal marketplace where only a tiny fraction of content providers do well at it. Living and working for the algorithm is incredibly demanding and I do not suggest sticking your head anywhere near that noose.

Another part of why AAC has survived is that you have been willing to put yourself out there in order to actively curate the site. The articles are excellent, only exceeded by the quality and character of the comment threads below – but this is only possible because you have the experience and confidence to impose your order on the place. Nonetheless the core community here is your other major resource and considering how to better leverage their depth and credibility.

Just some thoughts John.

Arne Mogstad

Not sure what you mean by “our generation”, but I would absolutely say I am within the younger generation, and the written media is not defeated by video and platforms like YouTube.

I use YouTube for supplemental information when I study things for work (anesthesia and emergency medicine), and sailing, but I still prefer text. Text will not die. The people that are likely to walk the walk and actually do real offshore sailing, I suspect are not that easily tricked by the “glossy” YouTube thumbnails and bikinis.

Another semi-related point, is that I don’t want this to be a kind of “sailing-YouTube” appealing to the masses. I like that both the articles and comments have integrity, substance, accountability (full names), and credibility. I like AAC as it is. I would be happy for everyone that join, but I feel like it would be a major setback if those points were to disappear. This is like The voyagers handbook, The Annapolis sailing book, and Nigel’s technical handbook. Only continually evolving and improving.

Anyway, just wanted to voice out that I think it’s wrong to do videos to appeal to the younger generation. I am young, and this appeals to me as it is! And I think it’s wrong to try to appeal to a new kind of customer-group, but rather to reach the ones that does not yet know about the site.

Patrick Ryan

Hi John,

I never comment but I have read EVERYTHING on this site, much of it more than once just because it is so interesting and informative. Though I am a power boat guy (I may have skipped a few articles on rigging), I gladly upgraded to supporter.

I agree that an app would add little other than time and expense for you. eBooks would be great to have offline.

There is an enormous pool of potential subscribers in the power boat world and there is no blog (that I have identified) of nearly the quality of this one. The closest is They are a couple who motored everywhere in the world in their Nordhaven 52 that they recently sold and are now back on land living in Seattle. Their blog is free, but like yours, has lots of useful information for those wanting to do serious offshore motoring.

It seems that AAC just needs more subscribers. It also appears that the number of sailor subscribers you have is “maxed out.” I know it may sound crazy to you as a sailor of sailboats, but the potential audience for AAC in the motoring world is not insignificant. Could you bring in some other authors like Jenifer and James Hamilton to broaden the appeal of AAC? The potential would be to offload some of the writing work you do while at the same time bringing in more and different subscribers to increase revenue. Additionally, a bust of cheap marketing on FB or YouTube could draw in some initial interest.

I will keep reading and paying but I think there are others like me who might join as well . . . .

Thank you for all the hard work you do, The quality shows.

Kit Laughlin

I very much like the idea of making some of the online books into a downloadable format. For example, I very much would like to see the electrical systems book made into this format, and made available to members at one price, and to outsiders at another. As I contemplate upgrading my own systems on board, this would be an instant purchase for me.

I am not interested in reading anything on a phone, so rejigging the site to be smart-phone friendly is not important for me.

Annual price increases is fine by me. I will think about the voluntary price increase; $36/p.a. seems reasonable. And, speaking as someone who runs a big site that is our sole source of income presently (Covid killed our earlier business), the online space is becoming more crowded, and the only way to be successful is to be better than the competition. This is the space we play in. Good luck!

Kit Laughlin

I upgraded my membership to the $36/p.a. plan a moment ago.

Thomas Hinton

I have just upgraded to the $36/p.a. subscription.
I think that it is excellent value and it would still be for me at $46 or $56 but I understand your cautious approach.
Thanks again,
SV Boomaroo

Alastair Currie

I have being reducing my online presence for some time now, mainly by leaving forums (account deletion) and cancelling any subscription. AAC is one place I have decided to maintain membership. Quite simply, the advice is reliable and understandable, but more importantly, where it is not understandable, clarification is easy to get. You Tube is a great resource for sure, but it serves a different purpose and many of the how to videos are simply a monologue, which I find tedious and more difficult to extract what I need; I prefer text.
Being a Scotsman paying for anything is a very difficult decision for me (-; but it was an easy decision for AAC. Regarding ebooks, I wouldn’t bother, unless it adds a degree of protection from copyright infringement. I use pdf a lot for my work where I have to reference standards and manuals. My team and I all use iPads and have the various documents easily annotated and marked on pdf. If format is not an issue, then would pdf not take less time to format an article into?
Like others I read AAC articles on my iPad and mobile phone via the web link and would continue to do so, seeing no need for a special mobile version. To be frank, many mobile versions of forums and websites are less functional and usually I resort back to the website version. I can see advantages that mobile friendly versions have for fast download over lower bandwidth connections, but the world is changing rapidly with regards to internet speed, plus devices have huge amounts of memory now, so I am not so sure if mobile versions are so useful. I talk from a stance of an ignoramus when it comes to digital medial, so forgive me if my points are plain dumb.
As for price point, the first rule of capitalism, charge the price the market will stand. An easy phrase but a difficult point to arrive at. I think the quality of your work does demand a price increase and is justifiable because of the reliability of the information you provide. Inflation is likely driving up overheads, hence your price has to account for that. A lot of folks are tightening their belts, even those of us with 5, 6 or 7 figure floating assets, but it is the truly unnecessary that is being dumped e.g. TV subscription channels, fast food, magazine subscriptions, business class flights. Your target audience is people who are planning, aspiring or are undertaking adventure cruising and my guess is that they will pay for advice. My advice is to keep up the networking, keep writing articles (with more graphics), keep it real world and folks will come. Remember, as far as I can tell, the second wave of folks with spare cash, the post baby boomer generation, are getting ready to sail off. You’re needed more that ever. My advice, try and communicate the need to refer your site by members, maybe with an email campaign asking members to sign up others – how could that be rewarded to encourage? I don’t know, maybe an email link from a members email that you have sent out, where the potential new member gets a discount on sign up for the first year. The repeat business is what you are after, as that forms a core cash flow that covers overheads plus and repeat comes from a percentage of newbies that decide to stay on. Good luck with whatever you decide.

Arne Mogstad

PDF would work equally as good as an e-book. Any form that lets me have it on the iPad and read it while I’m outside of cell coverage. Today I need to save the webpage, and that’s tedious.

Nathan Moore

I agree that pdf is the preferred medium. It’s universal, can be annotated by the reader, and is easy to produce. FWIW, I too think of myself as the younger generation (though I suppose I’m now the middle generation), and currently work in software development.

Jim Schulz

You have an incredibly valuable site and have developed an amazingly knowledgeable community John. As an example, just last weekend my wife and I read through one of your “coming alongside” articles together as we’d been struggling to work together as effectively as possible. We went through your steps the next chance we got and while we still need plenty of practice it was a much better outcome than we’d had previously. Afterwards Chris said, “Thanks for sharing that article and video with me, it was really helpful”. That was worth the price of subscription right then and there. I recommend your site to everyone. Thanks for all you do.

Andy Schell
  1. I think the “AAC Supporter” option is a no-brainer. I hope you get 30% of your membership to make that jump, and even at $120/yr. it’s still an enormous value.
  2. I still think a simple app that duplicates the site but which allows users to save offline content will solve several problems – no need for recreating e-books in yet another site, keeps the content locked, updates get automatically pushed to the app content and allows offline access. Not to mention the ability to send push notifications to alert people of new articles.
  3. I’m coming around to a few things, yes, but happy to see that you’ve come around to a few of my suggestions too!
  4. You still don’t charge enough 😉
Andrew Reddon

I echo all the positive comments above. Fabulous site and content.  

I would love to see a better search function. I have limited interest in videos. I would have moderate interest in eBooks, but that option is not too compelling for me.

I frequently go back to old articles and comments when I finally get around to something that has been simmering in the back of my mind since a read of your site long before. Even if you slow down a bit from running on the hamster wheel of trying to keep generating lots of new content, I feel like ten bucks a month is still a good value for unlimited access to all the existing content, plus accumulated knowledge/content in the comments.

I currently have a 3 year membership expiring in 2024. Am I reading correctly that it is “systems impossible” for me to go to the $120/year until the current membership expires?

Charles Starke MD

Hi John
I increased my subscription to $36 but the automatic renewal was somehow cancelled. Is that an error?
Thanks and best wishes,
Charles Starke MD

Stein Varjord

Hi John,

This is going to be lengthy (what a surprise, coming from me) but I’ll try to give my thoughts as I read this, and try to sort them logically:

NEW memberships
The main tools influencing new memberships:
1. Increase discoverability.
2. Increase motivation to join.
3. Increase temptation.
4. Reduce resistance to entry.

Word of mouth (or keyboard) is as John says probably the most valuable channel of discovery now. That’s a very good way, but do the present members spread words in all groups that deserve attention? Probably not!

Patrick Ryan suggests power boaters. Most members here are sailors, and I’m a fanatic. Still I and many others have shown interest in the articles on ocean going motor yachts, so we’re not as hostile as we might think. 🙂 The number of power boaters is enormously much bigger than the number of sailors. I think the percentage of power boaters considering big ocean crossings is way smaller than among sailors. However, a tiny percentage of a very large number is still a significant number. They would definitely find lots of great value here, and would probably bring valuable experiences, perspectives and knowledge. How would we find the right power boaters? I don’t know, but I’m certain others here have ideas.

The majority of ocean cruisers are well past their youth, so our ability to tell them about AAC is limited. Also, they usually get their influences via other channels. Even FaceBook is now mostly for oldies, and heading rapidly for obsolescence. How would the young discover this site? Again I don’t know, but perhaps one answer lies in an app, as discussed here. I almost exclusively use an iPad pro and my iPhone. I don’t see anything an app would give me that I don’t already have, but I might be wrong. I do notice that when there is an app for something I do frequently, I always use that rather than the browser version. It’s smoother and quicker. Young people have a much bigger resistance to clunky than I have, as I got into computers almost 40 years ago… An app has less functionality, which is mostly a good thing. The few times we need to do something more complicated, the browser fills in. I would actually recommend having an app, but be sure to make it functionally as simple and flawless as possible, while looking nice. Some colour, not only black on white.

So, I mentioned power boaters and young people. There must be other groups worthy of contemplation? There are definitely also a load more to say about discoverability.

2. Increase MOTIVATION to join
This is what you’re already doing all the time by creating value. Probably somebody here will have good ideas about what else could be done to improve how potential new members better DETECT the value of joining?

3. Increase TEMPTATION
This is in a way similar to the previous point about motivation, but still a different mechanism. People make most decisions from emotion, not logic. Logic is used to justify the decision you have already made. Temptation is just this thing. As Oscar Wilde said: “I can resist anything, except temptations.” I put the point here because it’s part of the logic, but I don’t have significant suggestions. Pictures of lightly dressed young people are efficient for getting attention and temptation, but I don’t think it’s the right type of tool here. 🙂

The actual value here is perhaps words like knowledge and community. Those words don’t really trigger temptation much. Still there’s plenty of tempting emotions to gain from participating. Perhaps it’s possible to clarify by using what salespeople do: Visualising the pain of the problem, and then serve the obvious relief and solution. There are literally thousands of possible topics for that strategy here. No need to be sneaky overselling anything. There are actually innumerable “pain points” in boating, and AAC does actually serve the best true relief and solution to loads of them. I really think it’s possible (but not done in a minute, of course) to make a landing page for AAC that gives some quite compelling versions of this. The landing page could be shared by us members and others, to make the word of mouth process far more efficient.

4. Reduce RESISTANCE to entry
Cost is probably the only resistance here? It’s obvious to us inside that the cost of our membership is very low, but new members don’t know what a gold mine this is. The fee should be higher, but that would certainly heighten the entry barrier.

To soften this, a ladder system could be used on the member fee: New members could get a 10 days (?) free trial membership, with full functionality, to have a proper look. They would have to register, with payment method and all, but no cost. They should probably get several automated mails during this period, to welcome them and help them get max value out of their membership, plus full awareness of pricing structures, options and time remaining until they have to cancel to avoid deduction, if so wished. Perhaps this free trial membership could make it possible to move several more (or all?) articles behind the payment wall?

When the ten days are over, if they haven’t cancelled, they automatically go into say a half year newbie membership for 18 Dollars. That’s the same as the present annual cost, but sounds like nothing. After the first half year, unless they cancel, they automatically go onto a one year auto renew normal membership of say 60 Dollars a year. Probably both amounts should be a bit higher? The amount should either way not be a legacy amount, but increase when necessary. Only annual auto renew memberships available.

Additional payments
From any level, any member could decide to up their annual payment to whatever they feel comfortable with. Each renewal after that will remain at that amount, unless the member changes it to any other amount, minimum the base annual renewal cost. Many Youtubers etc get most of their revenue from Patreon, where people pay just because they want to support. On a membership site like this, you could have a similar function within your subscription system. Perhaps there should also be an easy to find option for one time supporting gifts. I think this idealism option could fit the site very well. I know some of this might feel for you like begging, but it doesn’t feel that way from my side of the picture.

Perhaps different member levels could have some type of badge? Perhaps linked to duration of membership, or number of comments or payment level? I don’t know. Might add to loyalty or feeling of value and pride?

I also agree that making long form video isn’t suitable for this site. At least not at the moment. Video does have a favourable influence on several of the 4 points above, but I’d say it’s mostly not efficient enough to be worth the effort. Having short video elements within suitable articles might be useful for Google ratings, as Charlie Armor mentions. That should probably be mostly single take, unedited and max 2 minutes, mostly explaining the problem the article will go into, not the solutions. That’s also work, but dramatically less than full on video posts.

Making the online books and their comment threads into regular E-books sounds interesting, but I assume they would not be dynamically updating with ongoing updates and new comments? Also one couldn’t make comments in the book interface? This is probably fine, as long as the e-book is fairly frequently updated, but it could potentially break a bit of the valuable connection between content and community interaction?

Nobody can live forever, it seems, 🙂 but I’m sure you will want to contribute to this site long after normal retirement, albeit sometime not too far into the future at a more relaxed pace. I hope you will also wish AAC to continue existing even after you don’t want to spend all your energy on it. Perhaps Phyllis feels like maintaining it? It could be with fewer published articles. It could even be close to static, perhaps, but that would mean problems with a subscription model? Perhaps some other entity would like to buy the site from you, sometime in the future, and keep the knowledge available, while building their own related content next to it? That would have to include some sort of contract about how to use it, of course. Perhaps ideally, you would find somebody that would like to join in running the site quite soon, to learn how to, who would gradually be able to take over the work and run the site in a good way for a long time?

I wish the best for you both, and AAC.

Stein Varjord

Hi John,
About trial membership, what I tried to present was a “cushioned entry point” type of onboarding, rather than an actual trial membership. The idea is to make the only real action point as low resistance as possible, as it is totally free with no obligations. All later action points are automatic. Following the route of least resistance, zero initiative, means you become a member. To not become a full member demands initiative and action = resistance. This action should remain easy to find, but still, most who got past the registration resistance will become members. If the short free membership period didn’t demand full registration including payment method, and rather ask for that later, more would go for it, but it would certainly still result in fewer new members to the site. I’d also argue that 10 days is a suitable length for the free period. It sounds two digit comfortably long, and those who didn’t find out in 10 days won’t be helped by more days.

I’d guess it’ll be relatively easy to find a company or such interested in buying the site, but very hard to find an individual capable of running it the right way. The combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary, and the level of them, is rare. I would imagine that any buyer would be thankful for any level of continued activity from you, so Phyllis’ fears will probably not materialise. 🙂 I guess giving up your baby to new owners will bring some mixed feelings on either side about how things should be done and how it should develop, but mixed feelings is what life is about, 🙂 so it’ll sort itself out, as long as the new person is suitable. Others have mentioned potentially suitable entities AAC could cooperate with, or potentially later sell to. Perhaps could be added to the list? They have sprung out of the ARC rally, and don’t have the same function as AAC, but the two sites might complement each other well.

George L

Perhaps you could team up with Practical Sailor, work out some joint, electronic offer. Seems to be the same audience and partially the same people contributing.

Mark Wilson

Practical Sailor sends out so many emails that it is becoming a chore rather than a pleasure to read them.

George L

Hi John,

sadly, you are probably right.

the match would be there, but talking sense with most modern corporations is a fool’s errand

Roger Neiley

Just happily updated my subscription; though it was not clear whether I extended or just created a new duplicate. Hopefully the former.

As online visibility becomes more and more challenging, my experience (working as a sports product founder and designer) is that the primary means of survival usually comes back to QUALITY OF THE PRODUCT YOU OFFER. So that’s one more vote to stick to your knitting, make your posts as informative and unimpeachable as possible, and most important, MAKE TIME FOR SAILING! All it takes for me is a day or two on board to come back with a new project list and improvements I’d like to make to our beloved Saga 43. Your “J” time will undoubtably pay off in inspiring new articles and advice.

Steven Hodder

No need for a “better” mobile version. Although I generally don’t spend much time on mobile sites because they can be so awful( yeah, looking at you Facebook), I happily read AAC on my phone.